IFAD chief bid to head ILO snags as rival African fights on

IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo and IFAD Associate Vice President Donal Brown wearing farmers hats

 ROME --IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo's controversial bid to head the International Labour Organization has hit a setback after a rival African candidate remains in the contest despite losing his government's endorsement while Australia and South Korean candidates have intensified lobbying, diplomatic sources say.

 M. Houngbo, a former prime minister of Togo, was described by French media last month as the favourite to become the ILO director general in the March election after Pretoria withdrew its endorsement of Mthunzi Perry-Mason Mdwaba, apparently leaving the ambitious IFAD supremo the lion's share of the African vote.  But Mr Mdwaba’s candidature nevertheless was submitted by Federation of Kenya Employers CEO Jacqueline Mugo, the Kenyan Standard reported.
"This has caused confusion among African delegates," the Standard said.  To be considered, candidatures must be submitted by a member state of the organisation or a member of the governing body. In Kenya, Ms Mugo and Central Organisation of Trade Union (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli will be the delegates.
 The candidates include Kang Kyung-wha (Republic of Korea), Houngbo (Togo), Prof Mthunzi Perry-Mason Mdwaba (South Africa), Greg Vines (Australia) and Muriel Pénicaud (France). 
Houngbo has been criticised by IFAD staff in an unusually strongly-worded open letter for throwing his hat in the ring for the ILO job only six months after he was elected to a second term as the head of the Rome-based poverty-busting organization. The Togolese politician says he cherishes the ambition of leading the ILO "with a new impetus, to reposition it at the heart of the global social architecture and to mitigate the risk of its stature’s erosion."
Mdwaba says he will reposition the ILO to do its work of defending workers’ rights at large.
 Mme. Penicaud says she will encourage high-level political discussions in the governing body, and ensure the ILO’s governance and management are transparent and inclusive. France announced her candidature in the wake of the spat between Paris and Australia over a submarine contract. Penicaud is not expected to win but her candidature likely will split the OECD country vote, reducing support for Vines, ILO watchers say.
 Mr Vines was in Lagos last week to lobby Nigerian officials for their country's support though unsurprisingly they declined to be drawn on for which candidate they will vote.
 The Nigerian Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, told VInes only  that "Nigeria will support the best candidate" for the ILO helm, the Vanguard newspaper reported.
 Ngige spoke while receiving Vines, in his office, accompanied by the Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, John Donnelly and the Secretary to the High Commission, Annabelle Simpson.
 Also present at the event were the President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, NLC General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, representatives of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and President of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Dr. Tommy Etim and official the Abuja office of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association,  NECA, Adenike Adebayo.
 A statement said that after listening to the manifesto of the Australian candidate, Ngige noted that from inception, ILO had made tremendous success in sustaining the world of work and therefore everything possible should be done to support, energise and re-energise the organisation, especially in this post-COVID-19 pandemic era.
 According to the Nigerian minister, the COVID-19 pandemic had left the economy of many nations very debilitated, distorted the world of work and inflicted loss of income on the working group, particularly those in the informal sector.
 He said, “With that blow, the informal sector of the working group has been debilitated very badly. In Nigeria here, the people in the informal sector constitute about 60-70 per cent of workers and entrepreneurs in the working economy. Therefore, what this means is that the ILO should lookout for the best in choosing the next Director-General. I am happy that you pointed out that tripartism is working in Nigeria. I want to assure you that the tripartism is here and we are working and social dialoguing well in the spirit of decent work agenda."
 “Nigeria occupies a prime place in the Governing Board of ILO. We had to get back to the Governing Board in 2016 after 10 years of exit. What is spectacular about our return is that we came back in full force, ranging from the government side, the workers represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the employers’ federation, represented by the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA."
 “Again, we were elevated. On the government side, we moved from titular to a full regular member of the Governing Board. Even before we did this movement, recognizing the role of Nigeria in the Governing Board, I headed the Government group as the President for two years. So, it is a very big honour.”
 Ngige thanked Mr Vines and the D-G, Guy Ryder, for superintending the election that gave Nigeria that elevation and assisting her to discharge the functions of that office creditably, the Vanguard said.
 He described the visit of the Australian candidate to Nigeria as a step in the right direction, assuring that the country "has no problem with his manifesto."
 The minister said “The manifesto shows somebody who has deep knowledge of the workings of the ILO. So, on behalf of the Nigerian tripartite partners, I want to inform you that we have received your manifesto and we are going to consult further on it."
 “It is a manifesto that gives hope for the resurgence of the ILO, especially in this Post Pandemic period. As a country, we are not oblivious of the fact that five candidates are going for this position. I can tell you that the five of you that are so far in the race are eminently qualified, starting from your humble self to the French lady, the Korean, the South African who is coming out from the employer’s and the Togolese, our next-door neighbour, who like you, has worked in ILO and presently at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO. We want to assure you that as a country, we have decided that we will give our votes to the best candidate.  We look forward to getting others to sell their manifesto to us like you.”
  Mr Vines assured that if elected, he would tackle the challenges facing the world of work including gender inequality, youth unemployment, child labour, employment insecurity, inadequate social protection, amongst others.
Prof Mthunzi Perry-Mason Mdwaba's ILO manifesto